Panama UNESCO Sites
Preservation of Panama’s Historical Sites is a MUST
When it comes to rising tourist destinations, Panama is a star! In recent years, Panama’s tourist sector has seen a tremendous growth, meaning more tourists around the world are choosing Panama as their tropical piece of paradise! Panama has a bright future in World Tourism, yet efforts to preserve Panama’s historical sites have fallen short in comparison to efforts to increase tourism in the country. Three of Panama’s historical tourist destinations are World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO. Panama UNESCO Sites are true gems of Central and Latin American’s history, sites with a history of bountiful treasures, Spanish Conquistadores and fearless buccaneers that must be protected for future generations, both of Panama and the wide world.
Panama is home to 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, three in the Natural category and two in the Cultural category, all of which are world treasures.
Panama UNESCO World Heritage Nature Sites
- Darien National Park: It is the most extensive park in Panama and one of the most important in Central America, home to countless species of plants and animals and hideaway for some of Panama’s indigenous tribes during many centuries.
- La Amistad National Park: Also known as the Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves, a protected area split between Costa Rica and Panama, a destination up to the expectations of any nature lover and science nerd! Costa Rica’s Chirripó slopes is the only place in Central America to show signs of glaciers from the Prehistoric era! But that’s a totally different topic we will address soon in our Costa Rica sister blog. Keep the link in your radar!
- Panama’s Coiba National Park and its special Marine Protection Zone: Once a penal colony, the island of Coiba was turned into a marine reserve and today is a protected virgin rainforest home to the endangered Scarlett Macaw. The Pacific waters surrounding Coiba Island, which is also Central America’s largest island by the way, are home to thousands of tropical fish and other quite impressive sea life, such as tiger sharks, whale sharks and even humpback whales!
Panama UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites
- Fort Portobello and San Lorenzo: The fortifications of Portobello and San Lorenzo on Panama’s Caribbean side, and located just outside of today’s Panama City, are the remnants of the forts built by the Spanish Colonial military to safeguard the blooming city of Panama, an important trade center and stop on the legendary treasure trail of Camino de Las Cruces. The ruins belong to the third reconstruction of the forts following fulminating attacks by pirates, such as infamous Capitan Henry Morgan!
- Panama La Vieja and Casco Viejo: Panama La Vieja refers to the ruins of the original settlement of Panama City, which was burnt to the ground after the attack and looting of pirate Henry Morgan in 1673. The city was not only rebuilt but relocated to what’s today known as Casco Viejo, current Panama City’s Old Quarters, bringing along pieces of the original and, therefore, jewels of Panama’s and Latin American past. When you walk next to the ruins of La Vieja and the streets of Casco, you literally FEEL the history!
Panama’s historical sites are for sure among the most interesting places to visit in Latin America. Places like Machu Pichu in Peru and Teotihuacan in Mexico show vestiges of a pre-Columbian Era; the Forts of San Lorenzo and Portobello in Panama’s Caribbean side, along with Panama La Vieja and Casco Viejo in Panama City, and which are all Panama’s declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are the chapter to follow that era; the history right after the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas and the following arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors to the New World.
Panama UNESCO Sites Today and the Future of Panama’s Past
While Panama’s UNESCO World Heritage Nature Sites are preserving Panama’s biodiversity and some of the world’s endangered species as intended, Panama’s UNESCO Cultural Sites are falling short in preserving the country’s historical patrimony and are sadly becoming endangered species.
Current efforts to preserve Panama’s historical sites are not enough to make sure these will stand for many more centuries to come. For instance, the current deterioration in some of Casco Viejo’s churches, La Merced, San Francisco and San Jose (particularly its famous Golden Altar is crumbling down!) has caused the cancellation of all scheduled weddings. While for Portobello and San Lorenzo Forts, the environmental deterioration, the lack of maintenance and the effects of urban sprawl have caused these sites to be considered part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in danger, which could cause the removal of these sites from UNESCO’s World Heritage altogether.
In a few words, preservation is PRICELESS. The conservation and maintenance of Panama’s World Heritage sites does require large amounts of money and resources, yet if 60,000 to 70,000 of tourists visit these Panama attractions every year, it would be detrimental for Panama’s tourism not to take care of the country’s important remnants of Panama’s past, which on the other hand are also patrimony of Latin America and the world for that matter. Building Panama’s future in tourism will lie to a great extent in the country’s ability to preserve its patrimony and offer future generations a piece of Panama’s legacy.
If visiting Panama any time soon, don’t miss paying a visit to these Panama UNESCO sites: a genuine trip to the past!